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Marafiq awards Yanbu power project to S Korea's Hanwa.

THE state-controlled Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu (Marafiq) has awarded South Korea's Hanwha Engineering and Construction Company the turnkey contract for an expansion project at its Yanbu generating complex.

The Saudi Riyals 2.7 billion ($720 million) contract covers the supply of two 250-megawatt (MW) steam turbine plants on a relatively fast-track basis.

The first unit is set to begin commercial operation in May 2012 with commissioning of the second set scheduled for July 2012. South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries will supply the boiler and turbine generators with the contract also including the installation of 380 and 115-kilovolt transformers and cables, switchgear equipment, and control systems supplied by Siemens.

Marafiq was formed in 2000 as an integrated utility to serve the Jubail and Yanbu industrial cities. It is owned by a consortium of state-owned companies and agencies including Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, and the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Marafiq currently owns 1,060 MW of gas and light fuel oil-fired capacity and a 440-kilometre transmission and distribution network at Yanbu. The generating assets include nine 60-MW gas and diesel-fired gas turbines and four 130-MW heavy fuel-oil-fired steam turbines. It is also an investor in the Marafiq independent water and power producer (IWPP) project at Jubail, which is already operational although only scheduled to start full commercial production in January 2010. The natural gas and distillate oil-fired plant has 2,750 MW of electric and 800,000 cubic metres per day of desalinated water capacity, with the output being sold to Marafiq under a 20-year power and water purchase agreement.

The Jubail IWPP was first tendered by Marafiq in 2004 but restructured as a larger plant with national project status and offered again in December 2005. A consortium comprising France's GDF Suez, the Gulf Investment Corporation and the Arabian Company for Water and Power Projects was awarded a 60 per cent stake in December 2006, with Marafiq owning a 30 per cent stake and the state-controlled Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and PIF each owning 5 per cent interests.

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Jubail IWPP was awarded to a consortium comprising the US-based GE Power, South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries and Sidem.

GE supplied the four combined-cycle blocks including twelve Frame 7FA gas turbines and four steam turbines, and also supplied the plant control system, while Doosan supplied the 12 heat recovery steam generators.

The $3.443 billion project included up to $2 billion of funding for the power plant and almost $1.5 billion for the desalinated water plant, and was funded on an 82:18 debt-equity basis. The finance was provided by a syndicate of 29 international, regional and local banks with the five tranches including a 22-year, $1.572 billion loan as well as $645 million from the Korea Export Insurance Corporation, a $600 million Islamic facility, a $496 million equity bridge facility, and a $130 million debt service reserve account facility.

However, the successful tender and implementation of the Jubail IWPP will not be repeated at Yanbu, even though a 60 per cent stake in a 1,700-MW and 22 million imperial gallons a day (migd) IWPP project was offered by Marafiq in September 2007. Although twelve companies and consortia prequalified to bid for the heavy fuel and crude oil-fired project in November 2007, the tender process had to be extended and the groups only submitted bids in April 2009.

Government concern over the slow progress with the IWPP tender was, moreover, exacerbated by the high prices submitted by bidders and by financing issues. With electricity demand growing rapidly in Yanbu, the 500-MW expansion project was thus offered by Marafiq on a fast-track basis to avert the threat of power shortages in the near to medium term.

Meanwhile the Marafiq IWPP project at Yanbu has been merged with a separate IWPP project being developed there by the Water and Electric Company. WEC is an equal joint venture formed in 2003 by the state-run Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) and SEC to tender IWPP projects and purchase their output.

The Ministry of Water and Electricity said in mid July that the merged IWPP project would be owned by Marafiq, SEC and PIF, although SWCC would be involved in designing and tendering the project given its substantial desalination capacity. The ministry also said that, while the project would still have 1,700 MW of electric capacity, it would now have 121 migd of desalinated water capacity.

The switch from private and foreign direct investment to investment by government-linked companies backed, in this case explicitly, by government funds has been an increasing trend in the Saudi Arabian power sector, although it appears to be less ideological than economic. The rapidly increasing price of EPC contracts from 2007 because of spiraling input costs and the limited pool of eligible contractors has been compounded more recently by the increasing price and limited availability of limited recourse finance.

These issues have led to delays to a number of private generation projects since late 2007, not just in Saudi Arabia but the wider West Asian region. This has in turn resulted in greater recourse to the traditional model of government ownership and financing of projects, albeit to expedite construction of plants and avert power shortages rather than for ideological reasons.

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Publication:Oil & Gas News
Date:Jan 3, 2010
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